Free Tax Help Available Through United Way

By Kristin Thébaud  |  2018-01-16

Diana Clay of United Way California Capital Region helps a local family prepare taxes through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program led locally by United Way. Photo courtesy United Way

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - Local households throughout the Sacramento region that earned $54,000 or less in 2017 can receive free tax help in person through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) effort led by United Way California Capital Region with support from Citi Community Development. The program will kick off at the first Super Saturday event on Jan. 27 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Grant Union High School in Sacramento, where IRS-certified volunteers will provide free basic tax return preparation with electronic filing. For more Super Saturday events and weekday sites available during tax season, call (916) 498-1000 or visit Sacramento residents can call 2-1-1.

“We want to make sure more Sacramento-area households are financially healthy, and that starts with not spending unnecessary money on tax preparation and making sure they receive all of the refunds to which they are entitled,” said Stephanie Bray, United Way California Capital Region president and CEO.   

Through VITA, the national IRS program that offers free help to people who make a limited income and need help preparing their tax returns, local IRS-certified volunteers will help Sacramento-region households claim tax credits, including federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC and Cal EITC), Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. This year, more households are eligible to earn up to $6,500 in federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits, including those who are self-employed. Many Cal EITC-eligible households are not legally required to file taxes due to low income, however if they do file, they can claim the state and federal credits for which they are eligible. Those who file for EITC, Cal EITC or Child Tax Credit should plan for their refund to be delayed until Feb. 27. 

“We want to encourage people to plan ahead for this delay instead of using refund advance products that can end up being very costly in the long run,” Bray said. “And don’t pay a preparer if you qualify for free VITA services. You won’t receive your refund sooner.”

Local households that made $66,000 or less in 2017 can file state and federal taxes online for free at, sponsored by United Way Worldwide. The site provides households with free tax help they can trust so they can maximize refunds and credits. As with VITA, the site helps people save an average of $200 in preparer fees, guiding users through federal and state filing with software powered by H&R Block. Users need a valid email address, income forms and Adjusted Gross Income from 2017.

Funding support from Citi Community Development will enable United Way California Capital Region to increase capacity and reach of the local VITA program to meet additional need and demand over the next two years. The funding will help expand the number of sites offering free tax preparation and increase the number of volunteer tax preparers. 

“Nearly 20 percent of households in the Sacramento region are living on low incomes, and nearly half lack the savings to sustain an unexpected shock to income,” said Vicki Joseph, Northern California market manager for Citi Community Development. “By expanding access to free tax preparation services, United Way is enabling more families in need to benefit from this vital tax credit and help build their financial resiliency.”

Other sponsors of United Way’s 2018 free tax preparation programs include U.S. Internal Revenue Service, SAFE Credit Union and SMUD. For a list of collaborating partners, visit

United Way California Capital Region is leading these free tax preparation programs as part of its Square One Project, a 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of local students who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. Household financial well-being is a key factor in student success. Through nine decades of work and research across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties, the local United Way believes ending poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones for success in college or career. To donate or volunteer, visit

Citi Community Development leads Citi’s commitment to financial inclusion and economic empowerment for underserved individuals, families and communities across the U.S. Through innovative collaborations with municipalities, community groups and leading nonprofit organizations, the group harnesses Citi’s expertise, products and services to help expand opportunity for all. For more information:, @Citi on Twitter, and  

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - Placer Community Foundation invites local high school seniors and current college students to apply for scholarship awards for the 2018-2019 year. The Community Foundation is utilizing an online system, Smarter Select, for most of the applications. Eligibility criteria vary for each scholarship award and may include financial need, merit, geographic area or field of study. Students may read requirements and access application links here ( Deadlines are in March for all programs. Please note late or incomplete applications will not be considered.

If you are having trouble accessing the online application or you would like more information about the scholarships, please contact Eileen Speaker at or 530.885.4920. There are seven opportunities this year:

Placer High School students only:

Ken and Janice Forbes Geil Scholarship

Larry D. Mitchell Memorial Scholarship

Al Saladana Scholarship

Carmen Wilson Scholarship

Placer High School, Del Oro High School, Foresthill High School and Colfax High School:

John G. & Lillian M. Walsh Family Scholarship

Lincoln High School students only:

Ben Parra Scholarship

Former Newcastle Elementary School students:

Richard and Doris Sayles Family Scholarship

About Placer Community Foundation
Placer Community Foundation (PCF) grows local giving to strengthen our community by connecting donors who care with causes that matter. Known for sound financial management and knowledge of the nonprofit sector, the Community Foundation continually monitors the region to better understand the nature of local needs, so that it can invest in areas such as arts and culture, education, health and human services, animals and the environment. To learn more about establishing charitable funds during your lifetime or through your estate plan, visit PLACERGIVES.ORG, contact Jessica Hubbard at, or call (530) 885-4920.

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Saturday, February 24, 2018 ~ 7:30 pm

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - Since forming in the early 1990's, Old Blind Dogs have stood on the cutting edge of Scotland's roots revival. The band has developed its own trademark style with an energetic mix of songs and tunes. Dynamic percussion, polished vocals, soaring fiddle and stirring pipes fuel the delicately-phrased melodies and traditional songs.

The Dogs have released eleven albums and have won numerous awards including the prestigious title of Folk Band of the Year at the 2004 and 2007 Scots Trad Music Awards. Their album 'Four On The Floor' picked up the IAP 'Best Celtic CD' Award and their last CD, 'Wherever Yet May Be' was nominated for the same award.

"The skill, talent and verve with which they played, belied their laddishness and the crowd responded with thunderous applause. Folk is the new rock and roll." (Evening News)

“The Old Blind Dogs play with a compelling energy and intoxicating rhythm, players and audience seem to share a wild ecstasy of emotion.” (The Scotsman)

"Old Blind Dogs have mastered the tricky art of innovating within a musical tradition while faithfully revealing its essence." (Acoustic Guitar)

Date and time: Saturday, February 24, 2018 ~ 7:30 pm

Run Time: 2 hours with intermission

Reserved Seating: $24 Advance, $26 Day of Show

Location: State Theatre, 985 Lincoln Way, Auburn CA

Box Office: or 530-885-0156 

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Critical resource for residents non-renewed due to fire threat

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) – Yapacopia PBC (Public Benefit Corporation), in conjunction with the Insurance Sub Group of the Governor’s Tree Mortality Task Force, today launched Sierra Insurance Finder, a new online service to help Placer County residents obtain home insurance.  The service was designed specifically to create a pathway to home insurance for residents who have been non-renewed or are having difficulty finding insurance. (

According to the California Tree Mortality Task Force, 102 million trees throughout California – 90 million in the Sierra Nevada region -- have died in recent years due to drought, insect attacks and disease.  Due to the increased fire threat, several insurance companies have discontinued selling home insurance in Placer County and other counties in the Sierra.

“Placer County residents are facing a dire situation with respect to the loss of their home insurance. Sierra Insurance Finder gives them a way to connect with local insurance agents who know the market and have access to home insurance solutions,” said Chris McCloy, founder and CEO of Yapacopia PBC.

“We think this platform will really help residents find alternate insurance solutions once they are non-renewed.  For those with home loans, getting insurance is critical to maintain their loan.  We think it will make the search less cumbersome and helpful to our residents,” said Placer County Office of Emergency Services Program Manager John McEldowney.

Sierra Insurance Finder partners with licensed insurance professionals who have access to multiple insurance markets both in California and outside California, as well as the California Fair Plan.  They can assist Placer County residents through the process of finding and buying home insurance.

Yapacopia PBC is encouraging qualified local insurance professionals in Placer County to partner with Sierra Insurance Finder project to assist county residents. For information and to apply to receive daily customer requests through the service, visit

The service will officially expand to other counties in the Sierra Region very soon, but will work with any homeowner in need immediately.

About Yapacopia PBC

Yapacopia PBC is a whole new way to shop for and buy insurance. The socially responsible platform gives back to the community by donating 30% of their gross income to charities designated by their customers.  Based in San Francisco, Yapacopia is also a Certified Benefit Corp.  For more, visit

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Tibetan Monks of Gaden Shartse Monastery Tour

Sierra Friends of Tibet  |  2018-01-18

PLACER COUNTY, CA (MPG) - Sierra Friends of Tibet Auburn is pleased to announce the return of the Tibetan Monks from Gaden Shartse Monastery's Sacred Earth and Healing Arts Tour February 1 - 11 2018  presented at the General Gomez Arts and Event Center.   

This much anticipated event will provide a full schedule of Tibetan cultural presentations for 10 days giving area residents and visitors a chance to experience firsthand the unique culture of the Tibetan people and the rich traditions of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism.

The events will include the creation of a beautiful sand mandala, carefully constructed over the course of their 10 day visit following ancient Buddhist symbolic designs. Each grain of sand will be carefully laid down by hand using techniques unchanged for millennia. The public will be able to observe and enjoy this moving and meditative process as the monks work .The Gomez center will be open daily for viewing from 10:00 am until 6:00 or 7:00 PM during the course of the monks' visit and dependent on their schedule.

When the mandala is finished,  there will be a special ritual to bless the mandala and mark its completion. Following the blessing the mandala will be ritually dissolved (always a "standing room only" event), highlighting by example the Buddhist view of impermanence.

The sand is then swept up into a pile  and small portions of the sand are offered as gifts to members of the audience. The rest of the sand is taken to a body of water  where after a short ceremony it will be poured into the water as a blessing to purify the environment and all the beings that inhabit it.

Other events will include:

Dharma Teachings

Public Talks

Group and Individual Healings

Workshops and Family Events

Home, Land and Business Blessings 

Please be sure to check the schedule online at

and on the Sierra Friends of Tibet Auburn Facebook page.

For more information call 530-305-1734 or 415-455-9393

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Placer Valley Tourism Draws Unique Events

Placer Valley Tourism  |  2018-01-17


ROCKLIN, CA (MPG) - The final weekend of January in Placer Valley is closing with a bang! Placer Valley Tourism (PVT) is thrilled to announce that three unique and exciting events are arriving in Roseville and Rocklin on Jan. 27 and 28.
First up is the SacCubing III tournament in Roseville that is billed as the Sacramento area's largest cubing competition and will take place on Jan. 27 and 28.  More than 190 Rubik's Cubers will be competing at this two-day event that will showcase competitors from 11 different countries. At this World Cube Association (WCA) sanctioned tournament there will be several different cubing categories including blindfolded, one-handed and feet!

Adding to the excitement of this tournament is world-record holder Max Park from Cerritos, Calif. who is confirmed as a competitor! The event will take place in Johnson Hall @the Grounds at 9 a.m. on both Saturday, Jan. 27 and Sunday, Jan. 28.  There is no fee for spectators so make sure to stop by and see the amazing cubers in action.  

Another exciting event taking place on Saturday, Jan. 27 is the NorCal Sport Stacking Regional Championships at William Jessup University in the Lecture Hall.  This event features cup speed stacking with individual, doubles and relay competitions in several different formats and is a qualifier for the 2018 AAU Junior Olympic Games. 

There will be nearly 40 sport stackers competing including members from Team USA Sport Stacking.  The admission fee is $5 per person and doors open at 8 a.m with the preliminaries starting at 9 a.m. and finals scheduled to start at 1 p.m. 

PVT also teamed up with the Berry Foundation to bring the second installment of the  Placer County Pentathlon back to Rocklin.  This event will take place on Saturday, Jan. 27 at Sierra College and consists of fencing, swimming, running and laser pistol marksmanship. 

The tentative schedule for the day starts with fencing at 8 a.m. and moves onto the additional elements throughout the day with swimming scheduled for noon.  They are expecting more than 30 participants and registration is still open.  All skill levels and ages 7 to 70 are welcome to compete.  If you'd rather just spectate, come on down to the Sierra College gymnasium at 5000 Rocklin Rd. in Rocklin.  Admission is free! 

About Placer Valley Tourism

Placer Valley Tourism (PVT) is made up for the 23 hotels in Roseville, Rocklin and Lincoln, California. PVT recruits and supports hundreds of annual events with grants, marketing, volunteers and other services as needed. To learn more about how PVT can help bring your event here, visit or call 916-773-5400.


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State Point Media (MPG) - The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced that California's adolescent birth rate continues to decline. In 2015, there were 17.6 births per 1,000 females aged 15-19: a 10 percent decline from the 2014 rate of 19.6 and a 62 percent decline from the 2000 rate of 46.7.

"By empowering young people with the knowledge, tools and resources to make healthy choices, California is succeeding in reducing births among adolescents," said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith.

The adolescent birth rate decreased across all racial and ethnic groups between 2000 and 2015. During this time, the adolescent birth rate dropped among Hispanics from 77.3 to 27.0, among African-Americans from 59.1 to 19.7, among Whites from 22.3 to 6.9, and among Asians from 15.0 to 2.9.

Despite declining birth rates, racial disparities persist in adolescent childbearing in California. African-American and Hispanic adolescents were three to four times as likely to give birth as White females. Additionally, the adolescent birth rate varies considerably across counties, from a low of 6.7 in Marin County to a high of 43.1 in Del Norte County.

California has a number of programs aimed at preventing adolescent pregnancy and improving pregnancy outcomes among young women. CDPH funds the Information and Education Program, the Personal Responsibility Education Program authorized through the Affordable Care Act of 2010, and the Adolescent Family Life Program for expectant and parenting adolescents. Also, the state provides no-cost family planning services to eligible men and women, including adolescents, through the Family PACT Program.

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As travel demand decreases after a busy holiday travel season, prices at the pump should decrease as well

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - Californians will kick off 2018 with the most expensive gas to begin a year since 2014, according to AAA, but prices are expected to fall in coming weeks as travel demand subsides after a busy holiday travel season.

At $3.10, California’s average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline today is 33 cents more than drivers paid in January, 2017. At nearly $3.23 per gallon, San Francisco residents are paying the highest prices for gas in Northern California -- 3 cents more than motorists in South Lake Tahoe, which normally tops the charts for the region.

“Last year was a historic travel season, with AAA forecasting record travel numbers for nearly every holiday, but prices historically will drop after the ball drops on New Year’s Eve,” said Michael Blasky, a spokesman for AAA Northern California. “Californians today are paying about 60 cents more than the national average, which AAA attributes to the state’s strong economy, higher taxes on gasoline and stricter environmental regulations."

The last time Californians started a year paying more than $3 for gas was in 2014, when the average price in January of that year was $3.62. Gas prices rose above $4 that summer.

Still, January prices don't always indicate how prices will move throughout a year. Motorists in California paid just $2.55 for regular unleaded gas to begin 2015, but by May were paying above $3.70 per gallon.

Oil prices were more stable in 2017, with prices for a barrel hovering around $50 much of the year. Prices rose late in the year and began 2018 over $60 a barrel, a 2-year high. 

“With global oil producers trying to scale back their production, supply could drop while demand for energy remains high,” Blasky said. “If they’re successful in cutting back oil production, gasoline prices will likely rise as well to meet the demand.”

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CDPH Offers Free Radon Test Kits

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - January is National Radon Action Month and the cold winter months are the best time to test for this odorless and colorless gas. CDPH is offering free test kits to households in California throughout the month of January, or until supplies run out.

Radon, a naturally occurring gas, is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, according to the Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Testing for radon in your home is a simple process,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith. “Taking steps for remediation, if needed, can be critical for indoor air quality, and improving the safety of your home.”

The kits are provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s State Indoor Radon Grant fund, and are limited to one free test kit per household. The aggregated information from the test results will be used to update statewide Radon Potential Maps, which show the likelihood of radon in a specific region.

Test kits can be ordered through the CDPH Indoor Radon Program webpage or by calling the program toll-free at 1-800-745-7236. Options for remediation of radon in the home are available at the CDPH Indoor Radon Program.

Additional information about National Radon Action Month is available on the EPA National Radon Action Month website at


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Recent Employment Trends Show Real Concerns

Pacific Staffing Reports    |  2018-01-10

A shortage in the Sacramento region of qualified applicants has grown to include entry level/general labor applicants, construction trades, equipment operators and licensed route and delivery drivers. File photo.

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - The ongoing active Sacramento hiring marketplace raises employer concerns in the first quarter of the New Year. In speaking directly with top employers Pacific Staffing discovered hiring, retention and payroll pressure among 2018 employment market concerns.  Pressure from increasing competition with higher wage firms based in the Bay Area also causing pay issues in Sacramento.

In telephone contacts between November 23 and December 15th , sixty-five percent (65%) of regional companies report they plan to hire in the first three months of 2018. That projected hiring is lower than the previous quarter, as thirty-five percent (35%) of employers say no hiring is anticipated in January, February and March.

With a robust demand for workers, Pacific Staffing also learned that some regional companies are paying signing bonuses for scarce skillsets and retention of current skilled workers to maintain workforce needs. While eight percent (8%) of hiring in the first quarter is attributed to seasonal needs, not a single company is reporting any layoffs in the new calendar’s first three months. Overall demand is evenly split with 43% of employers attributing hiring to replacements, and for expansion.                       

A shortage in the Sacramento region of qualified applicants has grown to include entry level/general labor applicants, construction trades, equipment operators and licensed route and delivery drivers.  Companies also report strong demands for bookkeeping, accounting/finance, customer service and sales.

Having surveyed Sacramento regional employers since 1992 each new year brings new challenges. In 2017 those changes included Basic work ethics- less loyalty to employers and dedication to doing a job, as noted in our previous trends report.  In between August 23 and September 20, regional employers also were asked if people and their expectations of work were making it difficult to manage. This question generated the largest single positive response as seventy-seven percent (77%) said Yes, noting people were ‘unrealistic’, ‘underqualified’, and younger workers less driven to work. This change in ‘work ethic’ as ‘generational’ attitude with an ‘entitlement’ outlook is causing attendance, productivity and retention issues.

More cultural change came to the front as a surprising number of Sacramento HR contacts noted more parental interference in hiring and workplace settings as reported in our previous report for quarter three of 2017. Pacific Staffing learned one quarter, or twenty-five percent (25%) of all companies reported having had this experience recently when asked about it directly. This (parental interference) is an unwelcome new trend and seems to be growing in the workplace, with employers suggesting it was embarrassing ‘meddling’ for both parent and adult children.

For more information, employment blogs and market surveys go to

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